Troubled Turkey on Your Table?

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on November 26, 2013


Turkey and guest talk at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, November 2013. (CC Ian Elwood)

Forty-five million turkeys will be served in American homes this Thanksgiving. Turkeys suffer terribly to adorn our holiday tables: after being given growth hormones that make them so heavy their legs can’t hold them, crammed into dark, miserable spaces, their beaks and toes chopped off without anesthesia, they are then sent to slaughter. But turkeys are not even protected by basic federal regulations on humane slaughter, and they do not have to be rendered senseless before being hung upside down, having their throats slit, and being thrown (dead or alive) into a scalding tank to remove their feathers. In some factories turkeys are slaughtered at rates of up to 1,500 an hour.

This pathetically inadequate oversight of U.S. slaughterhouses raises urgent questions about animal welfare and food safety. That is why ALDF sent a formal letter yesterday to key Congressional representatives along with Tom Vilsack, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), calling upon Congress and the USDA to do their jobs by evaluating flawed slaughterhouse inspection programs. Last August, under USDA pilot programs, federal inspectors were replaced with factory farm industry representatives, allowing the industry to inspect its own animal products. Not surprisingly, there has been an enormous surge in meat recalls and undercover exposés of criminal animal cruelty.

If animal cruelty isn’t enough to make you think twice about the turkey on your Thanksgiving table, you should know what’s been fed to the animals before slaughter.  In the U.S., most turkeys are fed ractopamine—a hazardous feed additive that forces birds to grow lean meat more quickly by increasing heartbeat and contracting cardiac tissue. The drug forces the animals to expand at an abnormally rapid rate prior to slaughter and is so dangerous it is banned in Russia, the European Union, and China.  In fact, a Mother Jones article last week speculated that the shortage of gigantic Butterball turkeys this year is likely to due to a nearly global ban on ractopamine.  Yet still the U.S. has failed to ban the drug.

Turkeys fed ractopamine likely live every waking moment in a hyper-vigilant state, as if a semi-truck is yards away from running them over. Other side effects include more “downer” animals, muscular skeletal tremors, and broken limbs. That is why last month, ALDF, along with the Center for Food Safety, filed a lawsuit against the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to disclose records about the extent to which ractopamine is used in poultry production.

Protection of the animal agriculture industry—with its dreadful physical and psychological impacts on animals—is nothing to be thankful for! Want to be kind to animals and gobble healthily this Thanksgiving? Here’s how:

How You Can Help

5 thoughts on “Troubled Turkey on Your Table?

  1. anne Pauley says:

    I will post another comment about turkeys and thanksgiving- another animal in the finance world. What kind of person doen’t think about the horrors of the industry- of course Thanksgiving is about a specific interaction with the pilgims and the Wamanag Nation. It was a celebration and feast- not about anything else. It has taken me a long time to understand this. The Mother of the Turtle Clan/Wampang Nation is here in San Diego for Thanksgiving. I am so blessed to be involved with her daughter. Happy Thanksgiving to you all at the Animal Legal Defense Fund- and God Bless!!–

  2. John says:

    I had no idea that Turkeys were pumped full of chemicals. I don’t think I am going to enjoy Thanksgiving anymore, now that I know how how they are treated. It makes me sad…

  3. Cate Malone says:

    I love meat. I wish I could eat it, but I cannot be a part of the cruelty. I wish more people cared, even just a little bit more. Thanks for trying to educate more people about the cruelty they are contributing to.

  4. sheryl polen says:

    omgod I had no idea this was being done … I cannot enjoy another Thanksgiving due to this information I wish I was a billionaire because you can bet your ass there would not be any suffering of animals but the humans that did this they for sure would be suffering and I would gladly pay to do it

    1. ALDF says:

      You can still enjoy Thanksgiving, plenty of cruelty-free vegan options are available at grocery stores! You can’t stop all cruelty, but you can stop some.

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.